The Ghost Bike, a spray-painted white bicycle chained to a road sign along U.S. 36 in Boulder, is a quiet memorial to Casey Najera, a 60-year-old cyclist who was killed in a collision with a Toyota Corolla on September 20, 2009. This Ghost Bike is just one of the memorials scattered around the state as silent tributes to bikers who died while riding. And although Colorado boasts the lowest rate of deaths per cyclist in the country, it's not low enough. More than 60 people on foot or bike died in roadway accidents in Colorado in 2008.
Change, finally, is coming: This past October, the state adopted a revolutionary policy requiring all transportation projects to consider the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians with concessions like wider shoulders and pedestrian-friendly intersections. In the past year alone, Denver added 17 miles of shared and dedicated bike lanes, which means there's plenty of pavement to pedal for Bike to Work Day (June 23). That's something even auto drivers can—and should—get behind. "A person choosing to ride a bicycle is one less car on the road," says Emily Kreisa, a senior city planner with Denver Public Works. "It all goes toward making our city a better place to live."
More bike lanes and safer shoulders are a start, but cyclists and motorists must also learn to share the road. Bike Denver, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, advocates for bicycle safety, helped include information on driving safely around bikes in the Colorado Driver Handbook. New state legislation dictates courtesy codes for both cars and cyclists. The Colorado State Patrol even has an "aggressive-driver hotline" to report unsafe driving.
On top of that, local communities, nonprofits, and volunteers are going beyond helmets, hand signals, and bike-lights to create safer streets. Colorado's Safe Routes to School program supplies grants for local safety projects like the statewide "train the trainer" program that paired safety experts with local crossing guards. Strategies like this lead to increased awareness, which, in turn, means that cycling, driving, and walking will be safer for all. "Our roadways belong to everybody," says Betsy Jacobsen, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "Whoever is using that roadway has the right and responsibility to be courteous and respectful to others. You have to get over the idea that this road is yours."
Join the perennially popular—even the governor clips in—Bike to Work Day bash at Civic Center Park on June 23. If you don't own wheels, rent some through B-cycle, a new citywide bike-share program. Bike to Work Day: 303-458-7665, www.drcog.org; B-cycle: www.bcycle.com
See someone swerve into the shoulder? Report the incident to the Colorado State Patrol's aggressive driver program by dialing *277. Be ready with the car's license plate number, location, and description. 303-239-4501, www.csp.state.co.us
Memorize the 3-2-1 Courtesy Code: Cars give bikers three feet when passing, while cyclists can ride two across when the road is clear, but only one across when a car is passing. 303-417-1544, www.bicyclecolo.org
Post photos of the streets you love—or hate—to a Flickr group run by Denver Living Streets (a city-sponsored initiative). www.denverlivingstreets.org
Use safety information from CDOT's Safe Routes to School to convert your car-bound neighborhood to a pedestrian and bike utopia. 303-757-9088, www.saferoutesinfo.org